MANILA – The chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs on Tuesday joined the call for a special session to discuss the measures suspending the excise tax on petroleum products, as the Philippines will be amongst those that will be badly affected by the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Representative Sharon Garin said the Russia-Ukraine crisis would not only have a cascading effect on the prices of oil and basic commodities but on many industries that are still recovering from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am in favor of having a special session of both Congress and the Senate to discuss the measures on suspending the excise tax on oil. We are in extraordinary circumstances triggered by the war. That’s the reality because we will soon see the cascading effect of rising oil prices in the prices of basic commodities,” Garin said.
She said businesses are still in the process of trying to gain traction back after two years of economic downturn.
"We are now at Alert Level 1 and most companies are now only returning to full capacity. Targeted relief measures should be expanded and not only focused on a single sector," she said.
Garin commended the measures undertaken by the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) and the Department of Transportation, such as the PHP2.5 billion worth of funds for fuel vouchers for affected sectors, as well as the Department of Agriculture’s PHP500-million budget for affected farmers and fisherfolk.
"But it will not be enough. The agriculture industries, which I have advocated for since the start of my terms in Congress, will be greatly affected. Farm machineries that run on oil, the cost of transporting goods, and the overall effect on an industry that is highly reliant on exports need immediate support,” she said
In a statement, the DBCC said the government remains ready to provide targeted relief assistance and support to the affected sectors, especially the public utility vehicle drivers, farmers and fisherfolk to cushion the impact of high prices.
“However, there other industries that are most affected by high oil prices such as the airline and tourism industry. Together with the agriculture industry, they make up a big chunk of employment opportunities that were affected in the last two years," she said.
Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez on Monday said there is a more compelling reason to suspend the excise taxes on oil products due to the worsening Russia-Ukraine crisis.
“I support the proposal of my colleagues for a special session. We have to act now before the cost of crude and domestic fuel prices rise further," Rodriguez said.
According to the Anadolu Agency, a local authority confirmed on Tuesday that at least 70 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in Russian strikes on a military unit in northeastern Ukraine.
The fatalities were confirmed by Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, head of the Sumy Regional State Administration, Ukraine-based Kyiv Independent News reported.
Also, a maternity hospital near Kyiv was hit by Russian artillery.
In a social media post, Vitaliy Girin, who heads the hospital, said everyone was evacuated from the building.
Moscow’s war on Ukraine entered its sixth day on Tuesday.
The war has been met with outrage from the international community, with the European Union, the UK, Japan, and the US implementing a range of economic sanctions on Russia.
At least 102 civilians have been killed so far in Ukraine and more than 500,000 others have fled the country, according to UN officials.
Ukraine says more than 350 civilians have been killed and over 1,600 injured during attacks by Russian forces. (with reports from Anadolu Agency/PNA)